Climate talks should consider ‘immediate’ health burden of air pollution

November 18, 2016 Release from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Duke's Gibson Station is the second largest coal plant in North America at 3,350 MegaWatts of production. It requires a 3,800 acre reservoir to cool the massive plant. Photo © 2013 John Blair.

Duke’s Gibson Station is the second largest coal plant in North America at 3,350 MegaWatts of production. It requires a 3,800 acre reservoir to cool the massive plant. Photo © 2013 John Blair.

Air pollution is not only causing long-term damage to the planet and human health, but it is already killing millions of people worldwide. In an editorial published November 14, 2016 in STATDavid Hunter, Vincent L. Gregory Professor in Cancer Prevention at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Francesca Dominici, professor of biostatistics and senior associate dean for research, call for actions that would mitigate climate change in the future—and alleviate the immediate health burdens from air pollution.gas mask

One in eight deaths worldwide each year is linked to air pollution, according to the World Health Organization. This translates to approximately 7 million people—far more than the number of deaths due to HIV/AIDStuberculosis, and malaria combined. In addition, air pollution contributes to disabling conditions in millions of people including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart disease and stroke.

Cutting back on burning fossil fuels and biomass would have immediate health benefits, and also meet climate change mitigation goals, the authors wrote. They urge delegates at the United Nations convention on climate change in Marrakech this month, and the incoming U.S. administration, to take this into consideration. “Even climate change skeptics who deny the scale of future environmental impact should not tolerate of the millions of deaths currently caused by air pollution today,” they wrote.

Read STAT editorial:  Honoring climate change agreements will save millions of lives

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Are you sick? This may be why.

AEP's Rockport power plant is one of the dirtiest plants in the nation. Built nearly forty years ago, with minimum pollution controls, it is a 2600 Megawatt behemoth that sends its power to northeastern Indiana dan southern Michigan while the people of the Tri-State suffer all its huge levels of pollution. © 2016 BlairPhotoEVV

AEP’s Rockport power plant is one of the dirtiest plants in the nation. Built nearly forty years ago, with minimum pollution controls, it is a 2600 Megawatt behemoth that sends its power to northeastern Indiana and southern Michigan while the people of the Tri-State suffer all its huge levels of pollution. © 2016 BlairPhotoEVV

This is where we live. Do you know someone with cancer, or maybe its a heart attack or a stroke. It could be just a chronic but life threatening condition like asthma. Or, as recently studies have indicated, air pollution induced Alzheimers disease.

Whatever it is, the reason could well be the enormous level of pollution we are forced to breathe each day just so other places can flip the switch and completely lack the understanding that they are causing us severe health problems. Aerial Photo of the AEP Rockport Power Plant: © 2016 BlairPhotoEVV.

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Kentuckians can handle the truth, the coal truth and nothing but the truth

October 28, 2016 – Editorial in the Lexington Herald Leader

Give Gov. Matt Bevin’s environmental secretary credit. When asked about the prospects for Eastern Kentucky’s coal industry, he was honest — unlike all the misleading political ads and mailings that are bombarding Kentuckians.

What Secretary Charles Snavely said was important, but how he prefaced it is even more enlightening in this election season.

When asked by a lawmaker at a meeting in February if there is hope for a coal-industry rebound in Central Appalachia, Snavely said, “I regret you ask me that question in a public forum because if you ask me a question, I’m going to give you the answer.”

OK. He seems to be saying Kentuckians can’t handle the truth. But why? What myth is it so important to perpetuate?

Snavely, a mining engineer and former coal-company executive, went on to say that he sees no rebound for Eastern Kentucky’s coal jobs anytime soon.

He based his prediction on world economic conditions, cheap natural gas and an uncertain regulatory environment that discourages electrical utilities from building new coal-fired capacity.

Plus, thermal (the kind for power production) coal from Eastern Kentucky has a unique market disadvantage. Because the remaining seams are thin, it costs more to mine, which means it can’t compete on price with coal from other regions, including the Illinois Basin, Wyoming, Montana and even Northern Appalachia — all of which produce cheaper coal than Eastern Kentucky.

That honest opinion from a Republican governor’s appointee echoes what a utility executive told the Kentucky Governor’s Conference on Energy and Environment in Lexington last month.

Natural gas is expected to overtake coal this year as the country’s No. 1 source of power and could continue to underprice coal for the next 20 to 50 years. Kentucky Power chief Greg Pauley said that because natural gas and wind energy are “the price winners,” demand for coal isn’t coming back “no matter who is elected in November.” Continue reading

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After nearly thirty years, Evansville Courier Press recognizes the need for safe air in SW Indiana

October 9, 2016 – by the Editorial Board of the Evansville Courier Press. Editor’s Note: Valley Watch has tried many times over the years to get the Evansville Courier & Press to look at the facts regarding the behemoth power plants located in the area and their relationship to  the region’s poor health performance. Finally, after  recent reports by the Center for Public Integrity, The Weather Channel and USA Today, The ECP published this editorial on October 9, 2016AEP Rockport 2

EDITORIAL

Indiana needs to clean air polution 

We seldom are trendsetters in Indiana. And for the most part that’s OK. But sometimes our reluctance to accept change has serious consequences, including harming our health and our quality of life.

That’s certainly been true with our slow, downright stubborn, refusal to more aggressively cut our dependence on coal as our primary fuel source for generating electricity.

Nationwide, coal is used to produce only 33 percent of the electricity consumed in America’s homes and businesses. In Indiana, we still burn coal to generate about 85 percent of our electricity. Only three states — West Virginia, Kentucky and Wyoming — are more dependent than Indiana on coal.

To hear Indiana’s top political and business leaders tell it, the state has little choice but to continue its heavy reliance on coal. To do otherwise, they say, would risk wrecking the state’s manufacturingdependent economy because the cost of electricity would surge.

Perhaps. But then why have neighboring states such as Ohio and Michigan, also centers of manufacturing, been able to significantly reduce their reliance on coal? Is Indiana’s economy really less able to adapt to change than our neighbors?

Those questions arise out of an enlightening new investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, the USA TODAY Network and the Weather Channel. Their report found that about one-third of all industrial air pollution in the United States is produced at 22 sites. Four of them, all coal-fired power plants, are in southwest Indiana, near Evansville. The health consequences for Hoosiers, and for our neighbors in other states, are serious. Air pollution significantly increases the risk of cancer, heart attacks and respiratory illnesses, such as asthma.

So yes, the average cost for electricity is a bit cheaper in Indiana than in Ohio — 11.33 cents per kilowatt hour versus 12.47 cents. But how much do we lose from higher health care costs and insurance rates? How many years of productivity are lost because workers are burdened by chronic illnesses?

Even more important, how many lives have been cut short because our state has been slow to further reduce air pollution? Continue reading

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Valley Watch president, John Blair addresses a rally on coal ash in Louisville six years ago today

September 28, 2016 – by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor.

Six years ago today, a hearing was held in Louisville to take testimony from the public on whether to regulate coal ash. Today, the rule is being implemented and should go far in making areas around coal plants safer for people to live and work. 

This video shows me, John Blair, speaking to a rally on the steps of EON, the parent company of Louisville Gas & Electric Company. 

 

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Kentucky Governor Bevin: Hillary’s Election May Call For Shedding Blood Of ‘Tyrants’ And ‘Patriots’

September 13, 2016 – Video from Right Wing Watch

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Air pollution from power plants may be linked to Alzheimers Disease, others

September 5, 2016 – by Damian Carrington in TheGuardian

Toxic nanoparticles from air pollution have been discovered in human brains in “abundant” quantities, a newly published study reveals.

This picture was shot today (2/13/14) at approximately 10 AM. It was shot from the river bank looking almost due east toward downtown Evansville. Photo © 2014 BlairPhotoEVV.

This picture was shot 2/13/14 at approximately 10 AM. It was shot from the river bank looking almost due east toward downtown Evansville. Evansville and much of the lower ohio River valley rarely have fine particle pollution levels at what USEPA considers “good.” Photo © 2014 BlairPhotoEVV

The detection of the particles, in brain tissue from 37 people, raises concerns because recent research has suggested links between these magnetite particles and Alzheimer’s disease, while air pollution has been shown to significantly increase the risk of the disease. However, the new work is still a long way from proving that the air pollution particles cause or exacerbate Alzheimer’s.

“This is a discovery finding, and now what should start is a whole new examination of this as a potentially very important environmental risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Prof Barbara Maher, at Lancaster University, who led the new research. “Now there is a reason to go on and do the epidemiology and the toxicity testing, because these particles are so prolific and people are exposed to them.”

Air pollution is a global health crisis that kills more people than malaria and HIV/Aids combined and it has long been linked to lung and heart disease and strokes. But research is uncovering new impacts on health, including degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, mental illness and reduced intelligence.

The new work, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined brain tissue from 37 people in Manchester, in the UK, and Mexico, aged between three and 92.

The AEP operated Rockport Power Plant is a 2600 MW behemoth that has no scrubbers nearly 40 years after it began producing energy for northeastern Indiana and southern Michigan. It is also known for making clouds with its massive release of water vapor from its cooling towers. © 2012 BlairPhotoEVV

The AEP operated Rockport Power Plant is a 2600 MW behemoth that has no scrubbers nearly 40 years after it began producing energy for northeastern Indiana and southern Michigan. It is also known for making clouds with its massive release of water vapor from its cooling towers. © 2012 BlairPhotoEVV

It found abundant particles of magnetite, an iron oxide. “You are talking about millions of magnetite particles per gram of freeze-dried brain tissue – it is extraordinary,” said Maher.

“Magnetite in the brain is not something you want to have because it is particularly toxic there,” she said, explaining that the substance can create reactive oxygen species called free radicals. “Oxidative cell damage is one of the hallmark features of Alzheimer’s disease, and this is why the presence of magnetite is so potentially significant, because it is so bioreactive.”
Continue reading

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Largest U.S. Power Grid Says It Can Meet Obama’s Climate Mandate

September 2, 2016 – by Jonathan Crawford in Bloomberg.com

  • Cost hikes from carbon cuts will be less than 3 percent
  • Plan aims to cut emissions 32 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels

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    PJM says it will be able to comply with the Clean Power Plan with minimum impact on electricity prices. © 2014 BlairPhotoEVV

The operator of the largest U.S. power market said it can meet the Obama administration’s sweeping goals to tackle climate change while limiting the impact on power prices to a less than 3 percent rise.

Power suppliers in the market, which covers parts of the U.S. mid-Atlantic and Midwest, can meet emission reduction targets for less than $2 a megawatt-hour, or 1 to 3 percent of average wholesale electricity costs, PJM Interconnection LLC, said in a report Thursday. Even with the added expense, the system will continue to attract new generators to satisfy the region’s growing power needs, the report found.

Suppliers across the U.S. are seeking ways to comply with President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which is designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from generators 32 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. The report challenged claims from opponents who say the environmental mandates will drive a wave of power plant retirements, risking blackouts and price spikes for consumers.

Under all of the plans that have been proposed to reach emissions targets, adequate power supplies “were maintained throughout the PJM footprint,” Muhsin Abdurrahman, a senior market strategist at PJM, said in a briefing Thursday.

Lower natural gas prices would drive the retirement of higher-polluting coal-fired power plants and reduce the cost of meeting the mandates, according to the report. A regional approach would also drive down expenses as opposed to individual states pursuing their own plans.

The study also found that the existing fleet of nuclear reactors can become economic as states look to maintain carbon-free generation to meet the targets.

While the Supreme Court has suspended Obama’s Clean Power Plan pending a legal review, a number of states are still working toward reaching the goals it sets out.

Before it’s here, it’s on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE
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Can Earth sustain itself with human population expanding at such a rapid rate?

The Human Race White

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EPA projects Climate Change issues for Indiana

August 25, 2016 – Fact Sheet from USEPA

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 1.02.37 PM

Indiana’s climate is changing. Most of the state has warmed about one degree (F) in the last century. Floods are becoming more frequent, and ice cover on the Great Lakes is forming later or melting sooner. In the coming decades, the state will have more extremely hot days, which may harm public health in urban areas and corn harvests in rural areas.

Our climate is changing because the earth is warming. People have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the air by 40 percent since the late 1700s. Other heat- trapping greenhouse gases are also increasing. These gases have warmed the surface and lower atmosphere of our planet about one degree during the last 50 years. Evaporation increases as the atmosphere warms, which increases humidity, average rainfall, and the frequency of heavy rainstorms in many places—but contributes to drought in others.

Greenhouse gases are also changing the world’s oceans and ice cover. Carbon dioxide reacts with water to
form carbonic acid, so the oceans are becoming more acidic. The surface of the ocean has also warmed about one degree during the last 80 years. Although warmer temperatures cause sea level to rise, the impact on water levels in the Great Lakes is not yet known. Warmer air also melts ice and snow earlier in spring.

Heavy Precipitation and Flooding

Changing the climate is likely to increase the frequency of floods in Indiana. Over the last half century, average annual precipitation in most of the Midwest has increased by 5 to 10 percent. But rainfall during the four wettest days of the year has increased about 35 percent, and the amount of water flowing in most streams during the worst flood of the year has increased by more than 20 percent. During the next century, spring rainfall and average precipitation are likely to increase, and severe rainstorms are likely to intensify. Each of these factors will tend to further increase the risk of flooding.

Ohio River

Flooding occasionally threatens both navigation and riverfront communities, and greater river flows could increase these threats. In 2011, a combination of heavy rainfall and melting snow caused flooding along the Ohio and Wabash rivers in Southern Indiana and closed the lower Ohio River to navigation.

Although springtime in Indiana is likely to be wetter, summer droughts are likely to be more severe. Higher evaporation and lower summer rainfall are likely to reduce river flows. The drought of 2005 caused portions of the lower Ohio River to be closed to commercial navigation, which delayed shipments of crops and other products to and from upstream states like Indiana. In 2012, a drought caused navigation restrictions on the lower Mississippi River, which cost the region more than $275 million.

One advantage of climate change is that warmer winters reduce the number of days that ice prevents navigation. Continue reading

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Ten years ago today Ryan Owens, 16 may have been a victim of the region’s air pollution

July 19, 2016 – by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

Smog Wendy

This picture was taken on the Evansville Riverfront in the late afternoon, the day Ryan Owens died while practicing football in Henderson, KY. While Owens’ death brought about some changes in the way some coaches deal with heat, Valley Watch has found that most officials and school administrators dismiss the serious problems that breathing fouled air can cause. Photo:© 2006 Wendy Bredhold

I sent the following letter to the editors of the Evansville Courier Press and the Henderson Gleaner to commemorate the sad tenth anniversary of Henderson HS football player, Ryan Owens

“Ryan Owens took his last breath ten years ago Tuesday,” the lead of your story “Ryan’s Legacy” July 19, 2016 was certainly appropriate although without intention. 

Breathing pollution may have been the real cause of Ryan’s tragic death which was ultimately blamed on a heart condition, brought on by heat and exertion at a Henderson High School football practice.  

On the day Ryan passed, not only were we in a serious weeklong heat spell, but that was also a day when fine particle pollution in the region reached levels more than twice the health based standard set by the USEPA. In fact, the level that morning was extraordinarily high at the time of the practice where Ryan collapsed and later died. Further investigation also reveals that the temperature that morning was in the low 80s and had not reached the levels it would later in the afternoon that day. Thus, temperature is not likely the only geophysical attribute involved.

Ryan Owens, at 16, died from complication of an unknown heart condition on this day in 2006 while practicing football in henderson, KY. It is Valley Watch's position that such practices should either be cancelled or taken indoors to a more welcome environment when air pollution alerts are called.

Ryan Owens, at 16, died from complication of an unknown heart condition on this day in 2006 while practicing football in henderson, KY. It is Valley Watch’s position that such practices should either be cancelled or taken indoors to a more welcome environment when air pollution alerts are called.

Research before and after Ryan’s death has shown that the same heart “defect” Ryan had is also one that can present serious health problems on days when fine particle pollution is high or even moderate when other factors like strenuous exercise are present. Of course, that is why it is important to take precaution when so called “Air Pollution Alerts” are issued for “sensitive people” since that category includes young athletes and the elderly. 

Following Ryan’s death, Valley Watch has made a nearly futile effort to insist that all schools adhere to strict compliance with air pollution alerts as they are issued, both for ozone and fine particles. When there is an air alert, schools should cancel outdoor practice and move the practice into weather controlled gyms to keep their students safe. 

The same goes for Band practice since Band members also exert a great deal of energy playing instruments from the Tuba to Drums. And I dont think Band members are required to undergo any sort of physical exam to show their physical worthiness of participating like their athlete counterparts are required. It seems many school officials wear blinders when it comes to air pollution and simply dismiss the science that shows a distinct correlation between numerous health problems, including death, and high pollution days. Valley Watch’s outreach to local and regional school officials has shown that there is huge resistance to canceling practice and cancelling a game would take divine intervention regardless of the level of air pollution that may be present.

Such refusal belies the rhetoric espoused by almost everyone that student safety is foremost in the minds of educators. 

Valley Watch would be happy to share EPA data that backs our position with any teacher or official who requests it. Simply contact: Blair@valleywatch.net

 

 

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Valley Watch asks regional congressional delegation to oppose Trans Pacific Partnership

July 5, 2016, by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

Several months ago, Valley Watch, Inc.’s board passed a resolution asking our regional congressional delegation to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership. Since the TPP is now up for further debate in Congress, we sent the Resolution to all of our regional congressional delegation. That resolution is below. We urge other organizations who care about health and the environment of US citizens to do the same.

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 4.15.29 PM

 

 

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Monthly coal use for U.S. power falls to lowest since 1978: EIA

June 27, 2016 – by Scott DiSavino, Reuters

Coal Dirty & Expensive

Coal used to generate U.S. power fell in April to its lowest monthly level since 1978, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a report.

Coal-fired power plants generated just 72.2 million megawatt hours in April, their lowest since April 1978, according to EIA data released on Friday. One megawatt is enough to power about 1,000 U.S. homes. 

Natural gas, meanwhile, surpassed coal as the United States’ top fuel source for the third straight month, producing 100.0 million MWh in April, the EIA said.

Of the total 293.3 million MWh generated in April, gas accounted for 34 percent and coal just 25 percent.

The EIA said gas produced a record 1.362 billion MWh, or about 34 percent of the total, in the year through April 30, compared with 1.250 billion MWh, or 31 percent, for coal. 

Other major sources of power production over the year were nuclear at 20 percent, and non-hydro and solar renewables, such as wind, at 7 percent, the EIA said. 

The agency has previously forecast generators would burn more gas than coal in 2016 for the first year.

Coal has been the primary fuel source for U.S. power plants for the last century, but its use has been declining since peaking in 2007. That was around the same time drillers started pulling gas out of shale formations. Continue reading

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Rutter: Not much reason for Hoosiers to celebrate Earth Day

April 25, 2016 – by Dave Rutter in the Chicago Tribune

Illustration © 2011 John Blair

Illustration © 2011 John Blair

We’ve celebrated Earth Day for 46 years to inspire ourselves, challenge old ideas and motivate people to take care of their planet.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes no one really listens. What has Indiana been hearing for 4 ½ decades?

At least Indiana wasn’t the least green, most regressive state in America for the April 22 celebration — that’s Wyoming — but statistical assessments of Indiana’s environment add a dour tone to the party.

In the spectrum of greenness, Indiana is a dull brown.

It Doesn't Even MatterDozens of such assessments cross my electronic threshold every month, and it’s a useful to measure your state. Being intelligent about the world’s fitness gives you choices, though facts don’t always make you happier.

Dozens of such assessments cross my electronic threshold every month, and it’s a useful to measure your state. Being intelligent about the world’s fitness gives you choices, though facts don’t always make you happier.

Perhaps one of the studies will brighten my day, so I can brighten yours.

The Indiana where I was a child and grew to manhood is firmly affixed in my memory. Unfortunately the state that looks back at me in the mirror every morning is not that state.

Maybe what I believed to be true 40 years ago was never true. Indiana is polluted and indifferent to the environment now, and maybe it was then, too.

The evidence of eco-denial is depressingly consistent.

In fact, these dire surveys produced predictable howls of dismay from Hoosiers who do not think the statistics are accurate. We recycle trash. We have wind farms. We even make Subarus, for Pete’s sake. How much more “green” do you want?

But that’s like denying climate change by pointing to a nearby pile of Hoosier lake-effect snow.

If you value truth in numbers, Indiana is not only less “green” than states that make a big deal about that, Indiana also is less green than states just barely above Third World status. Hoosiers are less green than Alabamans and Mississippians.

The next time your neighbor smirks at China’s indifference to lung-strangling pollution, remember that Indiana is similarly bad, though on a much smaller scale.

Last year, every consumer and environmental agency that compiles the data with differently nuanced methodologies found the same thing. The 2016 report by personal finance website WalletHub ranked Indiana 47th out of 50 states in Eco-Friendliness, and 43rd in Environmental Quality.

It’s been the same for 10 years.

That report compared each state by 14 key metrics that speak to the health of the current environment as well as the environmental impact of people’s daily habits.

Indiana scored below average in every category, including air quality (48th), water quality (30th), number of green buildings per capita, (31st) and gasoline consumption per capita (28th).

Here’s Indiana’s report card:

39th – Percentage of Municipal Solid Waste Recycled

38th – Percentage of Energy Consumption from Renewable Sources

39th – Energy Efficiency Scorecard

44th – Percentage of the Population Not Driving to Work

Why is Indiana not “green?”

The Indiana Business Research Center at IU’s Kelley School of Business studies green industry in Indiana and says the state has 47,000 “green” jobs. Sounds good.

But Kelley researchers admit they don’t how many such jobs exist or what defines green. Some industries self-identify themselves as “green” without much evidence.

You can’t measure what you can’t count.

Perhaps you might think “green” is 20 entrepreneurial college kids who invent a radical solar power array that produces electricity cheaper than coal-powered plants. They could make millions of dollars and save the planet.

Of Kelley’s green careers, most are variations of air-conditioning installers, farm produce handlers and separators and support administrators. Of those involved in producing renewable energy, Indiana has only about 4,000.

If you’re a street paver who applies slightly less noxious tar mixtures to the road, Indiana labels you a “green” worker.

Mostly, Indiana is not a green state because Indiana’s government cares more about other goals. Protecting coal jobs, for example.

Jobs in any culture define the culture. This trade of values is the eternal Indiana struggle. Some states find a more sustainable balance. Others — like Indiana — don’t.

When Indiana disenfranchised its Department of Environmental Management and Department of Natural Resources by slashing their budgets, that sent an unmistakable signal.

If you lived in one of the three “greenest” states — Vermont, Washington or Massachusetts — conservation and eco-values would be as important as jobs.

Your state government would talk incessantly and passionately about its quality of life goals and environmental achievements.

In fact, a state’s passion for more modern jobs would be all-consuming. “Green” industry and invention are signals that states care about their planet.

Did that ever sound like Indiana? Did we ever really care? I asked the mirror. It said no.

David.Rutter@live.com

Copyright © 2016, Post-Tribune

 

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POLAR BEAR LOVE: Cute polar bear cubs lovin’ up their mamma

April 4, 2016 – Video by Andrew Manske on YouTube

Two adorable newborn polar bear cubs play with their mother while they journey to the frozen sea. One cute cub climbs and hangs off mother’s back. Features cubs play-fighting and nursing with mom. Very cute video! Footage copyright: Parks Canada.
Cinematographer: www.AndrewManske.com 
All scenes filmed in the wilds of northern Manitoba, Canada, near Hudon’s Bay.

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